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Art Callaham: Rabbi's blog illustrates signs of country's decline

February 17, 2013|By ART CALLAHAM

I recently received an e-mail containing the reposting of a blog written by Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, the spiritual leader of Congregation B’nai Yeshurun in Teaneck, N.J., and a well-known conservative blogger. The rabbi’s comments from his blog (several of which I will quote in this column) are both enlightening and, in the end, alarming.

Pruzansky writes: “The most charitable way of explaining the election results of 2012 is that Americans voted for the status quo — for the incumbent president and for a divided Congress. They (Americans) must enjoy gridlock, partisanship, incompetence, economic stagnation and avoidance of responsibility.”

Amen!

On top of everything else, fewer people voted in the 2012 election than in 2008. This proves my point about American ambivalence when it comes to national, as well as state and local, elections.

Pruzansky continues as he relates his opinion of why Romney lost (or how Obama won): “Romney lost because he didn’t get enough votes to win. That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues — the traditional American virtues — of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate.” The simplest reason why Obama won and Romney lost was because Obama offered the most “free stuff.”

The free stuff to which Pruzansky alludes was expressed by Romney in the secretly recorded video where he acknowledged how hard it would be to win when “47 percent of the people” started off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive “free stuff” from the government. Pruzansky writes, “Almost half of the population has little skin in the game — they don’t care about high taxes, promoting business or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese.” Many Americans just want the free stuff that comes their way when someone else pays for it.

If Pruzansky is correct, this does not bode well for the future of America. It is impossible to imagine a conservative candidate winning against such an overwhelming “free stuff motivated” force. People often vote with their bank account, cash in pocket or savings in mind.

Another reason for Obama’s win, according to Pruzansky, relates to his opinion that many voters voted with their hearts and not with their heads.

“That is why Obama did not have to produce a second-term agenda, or even defend his first-term record,” Pruzansky writes. “He needed only to portray Mitt Romney as a rapacious capitalist who throws elderly women over a cliff, when he is not just snatching away their cancer medication, while starving the poor and cutting taxes for the rich.”

It is a different world and a different America. Obama is part of that different America, knows it and knows how to use it. That might be why he won and why we are where we are today. 

According to Pruzansky, America began its decline in 2007, “and the deterioration has been exacerbated in the last five years.” The 2012 election may continue that deterioration. American society “is permeated with sloth, greed, envy and materialistic excess It has lost its moorings and its moral foundations,” Pruzansky writes. The takers outnumber the givers, and that will only increase in years to come.

The Occupy efforts across the country in the last two years were just practice sessions for what might lie ahead — years of unrest sparked by the increasing acting out by the unsuccessful who want to take the fruits that resulted from the achievements of the successful. Obama’s redistribution of wealth might stifle individual Americans’ ambition.

Most chilling is Pruzansky’s final comment in his blog: “If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back.”

I do not agree with everything in Pruzansky’s blog. I tend to be more optimistic about America’s future. However, I do see signs of decline.  The students I teach today seem more interested in getting by rather than learning. Officials seem to want everyone to get a prize rather than prizes going to the true achievers.

Where’s the American work ethic? Doesn’t opportunity plus hard work equal achievement? What defines success in America today?

The rabbi’s opinions make me wonder.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.



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